2011
05.21

SYNOPSIS:

At a synagogue for Shabbat and at a Shabbat dinner with Allan and Zippi.

Remember manifesting?  Well, it worked like a miracle this time!

And a story goes with it that harks back to 17 years ago when I was in Israel for the first time:  I had come as an instructor with ECHT, the study abroad program of Eastern Michigan University.  In a six week whirlwind tour we did Europe, Turkey, and Israel.  That left about three days for Israel, perhaps four…

One of the things on my wish list was to experience a Shabbat in Jerusalem.  In some guidebook I had read that traveling Jews can go to the Western Wall to be connected with local families who will host them for Shabbat.  That’s what I wanted.  I prepared by getting a tape with the most popular Shabbat songs in New York.  I had it running in my car until I could not only hum along but sing the Hebrew words as well, sort of, at least.

I extended my stay in Israel by several days to include an extra weekend.  When the group left I got sick. That left me with just enough time to recover for my Friday afternoon visit at the Western Wall to look for Jeff Seidel.  I found him right away, but when I asked for a family address for Shabbat, he said there were none left.   Impossible!  I had come early in the day and could not believe it, but what could I do?  I was crushed; all of this for nothing.  But as I walked away I realized other people were approaching him and walked away with what clearly seemed to be addresses!

I went back again only to get the same answer: No.

A third time I went back, explaining to him that I had specifically extended my trip for a Shabbat experience in Jerusalem.  That I was a teacher and even though I was not Jewish – I figured that he had caught on to this and refused me for that reason – I was prepared, respectful and deeply interested.  No, was the answer for the third time.

I simply could not accept that.  For quite some time I sat near the place where Mr. Jeff obviously was handing out Shabbat addresses to person after person.  This was a huge insult.  Was it because I was German?  I did have a discernable enough accent…  Had I done anything wrong?  I could not think of anything.  I was simply devastated.

In the distance I saw a woman coming whom I had seen earlier at my hotel.  It looked like she was heading for a Shabbat address.  I ran out to her, introduced myself, explained my situation and begged her to ask for Shabbat for two.  She agreed to do so.  I disappeared and watched the scene from afar.  She got an address!  When Mr. Jeff realized that she returned to me and then walked off with me, he yelled something after us – definitely nothing nice.  I have no idea what this was all about.  Since by now it really was late in the day, the individual host families had all been used up and the last ten people for the day were hosted by a couple at a community center.

We had a great time.  Many travelers came from the US, all of them Jewish, but many of them were non-practicing Jews.  Many of them did not know their Shabbat songs, I did.

For all these years I have wondered what Mr. Jeff was thinking.  This time, I found his office, by chance.  He still is operating an information and tour center in the heart of the Old City’s Jewish quarter.  But every time I passed by, the office was closed and the tradition of handing out addresses for travelers on Fridays is no longer advertised.

I had given up hope to celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem and resigned to just being here when at our second chance meeting at the Sea of Galilee Allan Rabinowitz, the Israeli tour guide whom I had first met at Qumran invited David and me for a Shabbat dinner!  How could he have known how much this meant to me?!

And yesterday we went.  Allan and his wife Zippi are members of an Orthodox synagogue in the Talpiot district of Jerusalem.  Men and women are seated separately.  David wore his Yarmulke but people here prefer the term Kippah.  There was a lot of singing and even dancing. Shabbat is welcomed literally as a bride with joyous and exalted expressions.  The synagogue was a simple concrete building obviously used for different functions during the day, like a Kindergarden and School.  Simple plastic chairs were lined up and the Bima and the Ark – fancy pieces of furniture in some of the old synagogues – looked like coming out of IKEA.  It does not take much to create a prayer space.

After the service – a few prayers were interspersed with the singing, but most of it were songs – we went to dinner at their home.  Eleven people were assembling around the dinner table.  They always have guests for Shabbat, Zippi explained.  We shared the Kiddush (a cup of red wine) and a delicious meal over lots of conversations.  Since this is an Orthodox family, the use of the camera was forbidden.  So, you have to imagine the big table filled with food and old and young around it.  Some expats from America, a Belgian nurse, three teenagers and us.

In good Shabbat fashion we did not take a taxi home but walked the 45 minutes back to the Old City passing many other couples on their way.

Thanks, Ganesh.  That was a manifestation miracle of the first order!

Thanks Allen and Zippi for making my dream come true.

Shabbat Shalom.

Good night.